Cirkle recipe kit review

Last month Cirkle kindly sent me a 3 recipe kits to try. If you haven’t heard of this company, they are a grocery home delivery service providing organic and artisan products. As well as that, they offer a free recycling service, aiming to ‘make it easy to eat well and do good’, a philosophy I can wholeheartedly agree with.

They have a wide range of products available; from fruit and vegetables to meat and dairy, lentils and pasta to baby food! Plus, they have a flexible, well-organised delivery service that enables you to find a day and time that will suit you.

With the recipe kits, you can choose to purchase each individually, or opt for a set of 3 predetermined recipes in their recipe package. Each recipe comes for either 2, 4 or 6 people and the prices (for 2 people) range from €6.24 to €20.07 per recipe. The package, to include 3 recipe kits, are priced as follows: €39.99 (2 people), €69.99 (4 people) or €99.98 (6 people).

I was very excited to get stuck in…

Warm mackerel and beetroot salad. (€15.73 for 2 people)

FullSizeRender2Firstly, the picture doesn’t do this food justice, the colour on this fruit and veg is simply amazing. But, I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure about this recipe. I’ve actually not cooked fresh beetroot before (I was put off from my mum always trying to get me to try the pickled stuff) and…warm lettuce?! But actually, this ended up being my favourite recipe of the lot. The smell as it was cooking was terrific, so mouthwatering, and the combination of colours looked appealing. FullSizeRender1
On tasting, the different textures from the raw onion, soft potato and crunchy lettuce was fantastic (you let the warm stuff cool slightly so the lettuce doesn’t wilt). The comfort of the warm beetroot was complimented by the subtle flavour of the celery and the stronger smoked mackerel. It was, quite simply, yum. And I will definitely be cooking this again.
FullSizeRenderIn terms of balance, there was plenty of veg *thumbs up*, and the meal contained a protein and potatoes as a starchy carb source – great! Also, mackerel is an oily fish, so good for poly-unsaturated fats and omega-3.
My only consideration was that I personally didn’t feel that the bread was necessary, I felt that the potato was sufficient. Especially given that this actually did us 4 meals – we both had it for lunch the following day – bargain!

Roast pork with pears and parsnips. (€20.07 for 2 people)

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This is a dish that sounded right up my street. Cooked using minimal equipment, and it contains some of my favourite vegetables and flavours. This recipe was very easy to put together, and the quality of the meat (sourced from Jack O’Shea) was obvious even before cooking.
Again, the combination of flavours worked really well. I love pear and parsnip and it was perfect with the pork, making a change from the usual apple. 20150925_222143We used all of the ingredients except half the cabbage, and there was still veg left in our pot for an extra 2 meals….I could get used to this!
I found this meal really satisfying, however, although you would be getting some carbohydrates from the vegetables, it does lack a source of starchy carbohydrate. It might also be worth tweaking the recipe slightly if you’re watching the amount of saturated fat in your diet, as cooking it all together means that the veg soaks up a lot of fat from the pork. All in all though? Another tasty recipe and I was loving all these leftovers!

Quick fresh tomato ragù with thyme. (€11.24 for 2 people)

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This dish is one of our favourites at home, and I usually don’t follow a particular recipe, so I was intrigued to try this one.
Call me lazy, but I tend to use tinned tomatoes with a handful of fresh in my ragù, so it made a nice change, and I did notice the taste difference. As with the pork, the meat was of excellent quality and really added to the dish. This is also the best wholegrain pasta 20150928_202954I have ever tasted!
With this recipe, the portion sizes were just right for 2 people (although we did have some Parmesan leftover!) Wholegrain pasta is great for slow release energy and fills you up, and the minced beef is a good source of iron. I personally would add a bit more veg in there; to include some mushrooms, courgette, aubergine or bell pepper would boost the vitamin and fibre content.
This recipe is definitely a good one for after a busy day, as it’s quick to prepare, filling and a true home comfort.

Overall, I was really impressed with the quality of the ingredients, and the recipes all tasted really good. Cirkle offer loose products as well, and you can purchase fruit or vegetable boxes, but I think that the recipe kits are definitely worth a go if you find yourself lacking inspiration in the kitchen. Given the quality and quantity you get, I think that they work out really good value too! I will definitely be using them again in the future, and look forward to trying some more of their recipe kits.

If you are one of my clients and want to give Cirkle a try…ask me about how you can get a free small fruit box in your order!

(Please note: I received this recipe kit for free, but all my opinions are 100% honest and I was not reimbursed for this review. Please see my disclaimer for more information.)

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FAQs – session 1

I’m opening up my brain to you guys!
Do you have a burning question about food, diet or nutrition that you’ve always wanted to know the answer to?
No matter how random, get in touch via email, twitter or facebook and I’ll do my best to answer in my new series of FAQs.

Due to my hectic work schedule, I sometimes eat really late at night, is this bad?
Research shows that it’s not the time at which you eat the calories, but the total amount of calories consumed throughout the day that matters.

It’s not like by eating just before you go to bed you’ll immediately store those calories all as fat because…(prepare yourself! Shock…horror…!)…you still burn calories when you sleep! I know, it’s great! If you think about it, it makes total sense. You still need your heart, your lungs and even your brain to work when you’re sleeping, right? All of these processes require energy.

The one downside of eating just before going to bed might be that some people get an upset stomach from going into a horizontal position so soon after eating, but in terms of weight gain, the balance of what you eat through the day is much more important.

Are carbs fattening?
I have lost count of how many times I have been asked this question.

First of all, scientifically speaking, the term ‘carbs’ or ‘carbohydrates’ doesn’t just apply to starches, it applies to all ‘sugars’, so this includes the sugars found in dairy products, fruits, vegetables and chocolate. Fibre is also a type of carbohydrate. However, when people ask me this question, most of them are referring specifically to starchy carbs such as bread, pasta, potatoes and rice.

Starchy carbs are an important source of energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre – (fibre is important in disease prevention and some types have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, see my post on fibre for more details).Per gram, ‘carbs’ contain the same number of calories as protein, so no, they on their own are not fattening. Carbs have got their bad reputation because people often eat much more than they need, and because we tend to add fats to them. A large number of processed products are also carbohydrate based, and these often have fats added to them to enhance their flavour. Rice, pasta, potatoes, bread or cereals in sensible portions are healthy foods to include in your diet (select brown/wholewheat options to up your fibre intake).

I’ve heard that I shouldn’t eat fruit after a meal, is this true?
The short answer here is…..NO!

People have asked me this stating that they have read that eating fruit straight after a meal interferes with the digestion of food eaten.  Well I’m not quite sure where this comes from, but the truth is fruit may actually HELP with the absorption of some nutrients after a meal. As mentioned in my vitamin C post, fruits containing vitamin C may help absorb iron from foods, especially non-meat sources. Rich in nutrients, fruit is a completely healthy thing to have as a dessert, it’s lower in calories than apple pie and custard, and if it helps curb your sweet tooth, it’s definitely a better option than a handful of biscuits!

Remember though that it’s everything in moderation, fruit (like any other food) contains calories and too much of a good thing can be not such a good thing! See my post on portion sizes for more info.

Do I need to go gluten free to lose weight?
No. Unfortunately, the media has a big impact on what diet is perceived as ‘healthy’. Gluten free does not automatically mean less calories, sometimes it can even mean more…as well as more added sugar…!

Some people have a true intolerance to gluten and have to cut it out from their diet. Given that gluten free produce is (generally) more expensive, harder to get hold of, there is less choice available, I tend to advise people not to go gluten free unless they need to. That said, of course, health is about the bigger picture, so yes, it is possible to lose weight and be healthier by going gluten free, but do you need to do it? Certainly not.

How many eggs should I have in a week?
People are often concerned about the egg and cholesterol debate. Eggs are a great source of nutrients, quick to cook and easy to make a meal from. Egg yolks do contain cholesterol, in fact 1 egg contains around 55% of your daily recommended amount. However, it is not as simple as eating more cholesterol = higher cholesterol levels*. It has been found that saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature, mostly from animal sources) have a bigger impact on your total cholesterol level than cholesterol contained in foods.

There is currently no recommendation in place regarding a maximum number of eggs per week, but bear in mind that we should try and eat a variety of foods – so don’t rely on eggs as your sole source of protein.

*For people with familial hypercholesterolemia (a hereditary condition causing high-cholesterol), there is a recommended limit on eggs and other foods that contain cholesterol. For more information, download this comprehensive leaflet from the British Heart Foundation.

Overnight Oats

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Rushed in the morning; no time to make breakfast?
Want something quick, convenient and tasty that will keep you going till lunch?
Enjoy porridge in the winter but not so keen on hot breakfasts through the summer?

It’s your lucky day!

This recipe can be prepared the night before, saving you loads of time in the morning! It’s healthy, tasty and can be varied by adding different toppings so you don’t get bored.

INGREDIENTS
Porridge oats (40g) (use gluten free oats if necessary)
Milk (120-150ml) (The nutritional values below are for semi-skimmed cow’s milk, but you could also use soy, almond or any other milk!)

METHOD
1. Put the oats into a bowl (or a sealable jar if you have one!)
2. Pour over the milk.
3. Cover with cling film or close the lid, and leave the oats in your fridge overnight.
4. The following morning, choose the toppings of your choice and enjoy. (You can also pop the bowl in the microwave for a minute if you prefer it warm.)

NUTRITIONAL INFO:
Calories
: 220kcal
Carbs: 33g
Protein: 11g
Fat: 5g
Saturated fats: 2g

20140730_083037 (2)Topping ideas:
– Banana (or just about any other fruit!)
– Frozen berries
– Chopped apricots
– Yoghurt
– Chopped nuts
– Seeds
– Honey
– Peanut butter

Fibre

Dietitians and other healthcare professionals can often be heard talking about how we should eat more fibre. You may understand that it is “good for you” to have fibre in your diet. But have you ever thought about why?

This post explains the different types of fibre, looks at some of its benefits and suggests how you can include more of it in your diet.

Types of fibre

Fibre-rich foodsAn easy way to remember foods that contain fibre is that they all come from plants. Meat, fish and dairy foods do not contain fibre.
Fibre can be split into two different types, soluble and insoluble. Both have different health benefits, so we should try to include both types in our diets.

  • Soluble fibre
    As the name suggests, soluble fibre dissolves in water. In the gut, this helps soften your stools. Consequently, if you suffer from constipation, gradually increasing your intake of soluble fibre can help make it easier to go. Soluble fibre can also help lower cholesterol levels.
    Foods such as oats, pulses, lentils, golden linseeds, potatoes and vegetables are all good sources of soluble fibre.
  • Insoluble fibre
    Insoluble fibre cannot be digested, instead it is used as a ‘food’ source for good bacteria we have in the gut, helping keep our gut healthy. Insoluble fibre also acts as a sponge, helping keep us fuller for longer and move food through our digestive system.
    Good sources of insoluble fibre include; bran, wholegrain and wholemeal foods, skins of fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds.

To help differentiate between the two different types, think about making porridge (or oatmeal) on the stove, the oats ‘dissolve’ into the liquid. When cooking brown rice, the rice does not dissolve, but rather absorbs the water and goes soft. This is because the oats are high in soluble fibre, whilst brown rice is high in insoluble fibre.

Benefits

As fibre can help you feel full for longer, it can be a useful tool when trying to manage your weight. It can also help control your blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Having a diet high in fibre can also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

How much?

According to EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) adults should be aiming for around 25g of fibre per day. Most people aren’t eating enough. On average, people manage to eat around 14g of fibre per day.

Increase your fibre intake

If you want to increase your intake of fibre, it is important that you do so gradually. Increasing your intake too rapidly can result in stomach cramps and leave you feeling bloated. You should also make sure you drink plenty of water, aim for 6-8 glasses per day.

You can increase the amount of fibre in your diet by ensuring your diet contains plenty of fruit and vegetables, opting for wholegrains (brown rice/bread/pasta over white), leaving the skin on potatoes and adding beans or lentils to your soups and salads. Ensuring a vegetarian meal once per week is a great way of upping your fibre intake #meatfreemonday!

What does 25g a day look like?

fibre in a dayIBS

People who have digestive problems or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) may need to adjust the type and amount of fibre they have in their diets depending on their symptoms. This is something that needs to be assessed on an individual basis. You should see your doctor or dietitian for more advice regarding this.

More information

Fibre-rich foods
General information on fibre from patient.co.uk
NHS information on constipation
NHS information on diarrhoea
NHS information on IBS

Mediterranean Hotpot

I’m a big fan of Mediterranean food because it’s healthy, tasty, comforting and, typically, easy to make. You can pretty much throw in any veg and it goes well together. When it comes to dishes like this, I tend to just use up what veg we have left. Consequently,this recipe probably isn’t one for those who like precise, follow-to-the-letter recipes. However, it’s quick, sooo easy and packed with vegetables, fibre and protein.

Serves 4

20150303_184130Ingredients

Chicken (I used 2 breasts, diced into bitesized chunks)
2 large onions
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
1 aubergine
1 courgette
Mushrooms (a couple of handfuls)
1 pepper
1 chili
2 cloves of garlic
Cherry tomatoes (a couple of handfuls)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Water
1 tbsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt & pepper to taste

Method

1. Add the oil to a large pan and heat on low.
2. Dice the onions, finely chop the garlic and add to the pan. Leave to soften for a few minutes.
3. Add the bitesize chicken chunks to the pan and leave for 5-10 minutes to cook. Meanwhile, chop all your remaining vegetables.
4. Put the vegetables (aubergine, mushrooms, pepper, courgette and tomatoes) into the same pan, along with the chili, herbs and spices. Season if desired.
5. Add the tinned tomatoes and water (I add a further tin full of water). Stir well and leave for 5-10 minutes with the lid on.
6. When the vegetables have begun to cook and the contents of the pan has reduced a little, add the chickpeas. Stir again, and leave for 10-15 minutes with the lid on, stirring periodically.
7. Check the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is piping hot. Your hotpot is ready!

HINT 1: If you want, you can use this dish as a ‘sauce’ for pasta (as pictured above)
HINT 2: A little crumbled feta tastes great on this dish!

The nutritional data below is based on the above ingredients yielding 4 portions (not including pasta):
CALORIES: 300kcal
TOTAL FAT: 9g
SATURATED FAT: 1.2g
PROTEIN: 19g

Roasted Chickpeas

I’ve been making these for a while, but not got round to posting a recipe. These are great for those people who like to nibble, they have the crunch of crisps, but less saturated fat. Chickpeas are also a great source of protein and soluble fibre, which helps keep you fuller for longer.
They’re super easy to make and you can change the flavour so you don’t get bored. They are slightly addictive though, and (unless you’re okay putting up with the repercussions of bean-overload)…I’d recommend only having a handful at a time!

Ingredients:roasted chickpeas
1 tin of chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika
Salt & pepper to season

  • Alternatives:
    – S
    wap the paprika for pretty much any spice you like (curry, chili powder, you could even try mustard!)
    – Swap the olive oil for coconut oil and have with cinnamon and honey for a sweeter alternative (omit the pepper).

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200’c.
2. Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water.
3. Tip the chickpeas onto some kitchen roll and rub dry. This will remove some of the husks (that’s okay!)
4. Add the chickpeas into a bowl along with the oil and your choice of spices. Season as desired and mix well, ensuring every chickpea is coated.
5. Place onto a baking tray and into the oven.
6. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until the chickpeas are crispy. The longer you leave them, the crispier they’ll get – just don’t let them burn!
7. Allow to cool, and serve. Store in an airtight container and they keep well.

The nutritional information below is per 45g portion:
CALORIES: 90kcal
TOTAL FAT: 3.5g
SATURATED FAT: 0.5g
PROTEIN: 4g

IBS – ‘facts and triggers’

First things first, this post is about IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), very different to IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). IBD involves chronic inflammation of sections of the intestines and can require hospitalisation during bad flareups. IBS has no known structural cause and, although it can be inhibiting, symptoms can be improved through making sensible lifestyle and dietary changes.

IBS is quite a common disorder; it is estimated that it could affect up to 25% of the UK population. IBS is thought to be caused through a mixture of psychological and physical factors including; infection, altered gut motility, ‘sensitivity’ to certain foods (I’ll explain this later) and stress.  Many patients who suffer from IBS report symptoms being worse during times of stress, and also recall initial onset to have occurred around the time of a stressful event.

There’s no diagnostic test for IBS, so the first step in diagnosis is excluding presence of more serious conditions, such as IBD. The doctor will then talk through your symptoms with you, and may suspect IBS if you match certain criteria.

Symptoms of IBS differ widely from person to person. Sufferers may experience diarrhoea, constipation (or a mixture of both), bloating, abdominal pain and swelling, wind, urgency to go to the toilet and the feeling of having not been properly. Consequently, the dietary advice varies depending on an individual’s symptoms.

IBS is not a life-threatening condition, but it can cause a significant social impact on those who suffer with it. The good news is that once you’ve learned what foods tend to ‘set it off’, you can work on avoiding these and often improve symptoms. A handy way of doing this is by keeping a food and symptom diary, so you’re able to identify trends in how foods affect your bowel.

As I mentioned earlier, some IBS sufferers can be ‘sensitive’ to certain foods, this is a kind of intolerance whereby specific foods can trigger IBS symptoms. It’s important to stress that these reactions are rarely indicative of food allergy.

Below, I have suggested some things that may help with IBS symptoms. However, because dietary advice will differ so much depending on symptoms, you should also consult a professional for personalised advice. It is important that you don’t cut out too many foods as this will impact the nutritional adequacy of your diet.

  • Eating a healthy diet  This may sound obvious, but you should try to eat as close to the Eatwell Plate recommendations as possible. There’s no need for most IBS sufferers to follow any specific diet. It’s also important to drink plenty of fluids; water can help ease constipation and you’ll be needing to replace increased losses if you’re suffering from diarrhoea.
  • Establishing a regular meal pattern Having some sort of routine is important for preventing feelings of hunger, picking at less healthy foods and can help instill healthy habits. 
  • Stress less! – Heightened emotions such as stress and anxiety can trigger hormonal changes that can affect digestive system mechanisms. Try taking up a new hobby or doing something active to take your mind off what is causing you stress.
  • Prebiotics and Probiotics – Yes, they’re different! Probiotics are live microorganisms that get into the gut and help aid digestion. Prebiotics are non-living substances that encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. I think about it as prebiotics being the “food” for probiotics, both of these can be found in certain yoghurt drinks. Although it has not been categorically proven, many patients find that when taken regularly they can help ease IBS symptoms. Remember to always adhere to the manufacturers recommendations.
  • Avoid food triggersTriggers will be different for each person, but some typical ones include; caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks, spicy food, sorbitol (artificial sweetener) and fatty foods. Resistant starch found in processed foods can make bloating worse. Resistant starch is also formed when starchy foods (such as potatoes and rice) are reheated. 
  • Fibre – It may be necessary to modify the amount and/or types of fibre in your diet. Recommendations about what to change will be based on your own diet and symptoms, so it’s best to talk fibre through with your own GP or a dietitian.

Please note that this post contains information for the general public, this advice should not replace that given to you by your own doctor or healthcare professional. If you think you may have IBS, make an appointment to go and see your doctor.

More information on IBS provided by NHS Choices is available here.